NXNE Recap and an Amazing Sandwich

First thing’s first: I’m suffering from post-NXNE depression in a big way. This year’s festival was better than ever. Once again, venues kept to their schedules (some acts even started early! Gasp!), people flowed easily between venues taking in as much music as they could resulting in my never waiting in a line or missing a planned show, and I saw some amazing new bands. From the Yonge & Dundas Square shows, to 3:00am sets with extended bar licenses, to a full afternoon of acoustic music in Trinity Bellwoods park, I had warm fuzzies all weekend. Most importantly, I am a huge fan of some new bands, including St. Lucia, Youth & Gold, Still Corners, Paper Lions and Villagers. I’ve been reading some awesome reviews of the weekend and I’m trying not to get anxious about the sets I missed because contrary to what I want to believe, I can’t do it all! Good news is that I’ve now got a list of bands to keep my eye out for. Here are some great reviews of the week that have me counting down until next year:

http://www.blogto.com/music/2013/06/20_highlights_from_nxne_2013/

http://consequenceofsound.net/2013/06/the-top-15-moments-of-nxne-2013/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/17/nxne-2013-best_n_3455738.html

A few choice shots from the weekend include Eight and a Half (L), the crowd at the Great Hall sitting and taking in Our Founders, and the Great Hearts festival put on by the Young Lions Music Club:

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Father’s Day Gift Guide

You’ve shown your Mother some lovin’ and now it’s time to take the time to appreciate Dad! In case the beginnings of summer have crept up at a crazy speed allow me to remind you to call your Father this Sunday! Whether it’s your own father or your partner you’re shopping for, I’ve got a few ideas to get your creative gift-giving juices flowing. For holidays like Father’s Day, I personally lean towards gifts that encourage spending quality time together or gifting a special experience to be enjoyed.

fathers day

Tickets to a baseball game (and an offer to buy the first couple of rounds!), a round of golf to a specific coveted course, or a few laps around a racetrack in the car of his dreams are awesome experiences to gift. Ladies love to be pampered at the spa, but so do men (sometimes secretly, though) and Truefitt  & Hill (Barbers to British Royalty since 1805) is a gentleman’s only barber shop that offers haircuts and shaves like no other. Wine tastings or a bottle of scotch is always a hit, this is a fact. Socks to help make him make his work attire more fun or fancy cuban cigars to be enjoyed with the summer weather are fun, too. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with ideas of BBQ tools and sauces to gift the fathers in your life, but how about a small wood chip smoker box for some experimenting on the grill? Consider pairing it with some different types of wood chips for an extra special touch.

And finally my favorite: a cute, witty card. In Toronto, my go-to is the Blue Banana in Kensington Market for awesomeness like this:

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Happy Father’s Day to all, but especially to my awesome Dad! xo

Vice Canada Gets the Munchies in Toronto

If you’re not familiar with VICE magazine, then this is me introducing you to something to help up the cool quotient in your life. A free lifestyle magazine, VICE is always cutting edge on all the important stuff like fashion, food, music, books, film (bah! I kid.. kinda). You get the picture.

vice

Somewhat recently, VICE introduced the beta version of its Canadian website chock-full of interesting local content. Whoever they have chosen to have their ear to the ground in Toronto has done this city proud. The “Munchies” section, which visits popular and innovative food and drink establishments in city, represents Toronto wonderfully.  The concept: choose a hot restaurant, take its owner(s) and staff around to their favorite spots in the city, feed them copious amounts of alcohol and food and take them back to their own kitchens at the end of the night for late night grub.

There are 3 videos so far, all worthy of watching. I’ve been to all of these places and will vouch for the excellence of each of them.

Meet Jenn Agg + staff/friends, who visit Parkdale’s Grand Electric for tacos, Kensington Market’s Cold Tea for drinks, then end the evening in her kitchen at The Blackhoof.

Meet Executive Chef Masaru Ogasawara who takes you to my favorite Italian restaurant in the city, Enoteca Sociale, followed by drinks at the Toronto Temperance Society (remember when I snuck in?!), and then back to his Guu empire.

Finally, meet Grant Van Gameron, who starts out celebrating the 1st anniversary of Bellwoods Brewery at the Ossington resto/brewery, chows down at 416 Snack Bar, heads for more drinks at the beer empire Bar Volo, then caps off the night at his newly opened and much acclaimed restaurant, Bar Isabel.

Green Beauty

In my teens and early 20s I was lucky to have pretty easy, clear skin and never gave much thought to what I was putting on it.  This laissez-faire skin care routine of mine backfired a couple years ago when my skin suddenly became prone to mysterious rashes.  Combine that with the fact that I am no longer 20, live with a green-friendly vegan, and have learned that 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body, I’ve started paying a bit more attention.  I won’t claim to be a green warrior, but I do try to do my part for the environment, and more importantly, for myself.  A startling number of ingredients in most drug store beauty products (shampoos, body washes and lipsticks being amongst the worst) contain known carcinogens and other toxins that can mess with your hormones and increase your risk of cancer and other diseases (for a scary summary of the worst offenders, click here).  Whether or not the regulatory agencies charged with such tasks tell me that the levels of these chemicals are dangerous to me, I don’t particularly like the idea of swiping lead on my lips or massaging petroleum derived sulphates into my scalp.  I can’t claim that my beauty routine is totally chemical free, but I’m working on it and have so far been pleased to discover that healthier, more natural options that actually work are not only available, but both accessible and affordable.  I’ve compiled a list of my favourite brands and a few I’m hoping to try below.

Burt’s Bees -This is an easy one.  If you’re a lip balm addict like me, you’ve probably already used this product a few times in your life.  But Burt’s isn’t only about lip balm – the company has over 150 all natural products, from eye cream to aftershave.   I adore the Milk & Honey body lotion and the tinted lip balm (which uses only natural colours and none of those scary sounding dyes your mother is always warning you about).

lip_color_hero_new


Yes to Carrots
– While I haven’t yet used this brand of products, I vowed while writing this post to make the shift.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for branding, and this company rocks it.  The “Yes To” company has 5 lines of skin care products, tailored to your particular skin-type and needs: carrots for nourishing, cucumbers to sooth, blueberries for aging skin, grapefruit to correct and repair, and tomatoes for acne prone skin.  These all natural skin and hair care products are made with organic fruits and vegetables and contain no parabens, petroleum, SLS or phthalates.  Just check out the chart below – doesn’t that sound more appetizing than the impossible to pronounce chemical ingredients slapped on the back of most drug store products?

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Holiday Gift Guide: The Foodie / Home Chef

As Toronto quickly becomes cemented as a Foodie town, we’ve got no doubts that you’ve got a budding chef or food connoisseur on your list of people to buy for this year.  We’re big fans of food ourselves and have put together this guide with our own loves in mind!

under $25

1) Perfect for stocking stuffers, small gifts, or thank-yous to holiday hosts, fancy salts, vinegars and oils are a gift that will always be appreciated and never be wasted.  There are gourmet shops around the city selling these items, some at a premium, some at a discount. For salts and great spice blends in pretty packaging, check out The Spice Trader on Queen St. W. or order online. Crescendo just opened in the Distillery Market and is known for its incredibly flavored oils and vinegars.  For bargain prices, check out HomeSense!

2) We’ve both been to the wine and cheese classes offered by the Leslieville Cheese Market, and they are fun, informative and delicious.  Even better, they’re $20! For your beer-loving foodie, beer and cheese classes are also offered. ($20)

3) A wine saver pump is a great gift for your favorite wine-o’s. The wine vacuum takes out the extra air from an open bottle of wine, helping slow down the oxidation process so the wine keeps longer. I know we all love to polish off bottles, but sometimes a nice wine is great to savour! (from $10)

4) There are cookbooks for every taste, whether your foodie is focused on being healthy, trying to master the perfect chilli in the slow cooker or hell bent on learning to make macarons. Chapters is a one stop shop, but there are some great smaller stores staffed with people who can really speak to the books to help you pick out the perfect one. Try The Good Egg in Kensington Market, you’ll want to browse for hours!

5) Seemingly every time we head up to a cottage with a food loving gang in tow we manage to fill the trunk with excessive food and supplies.  Heaven forbid we go two days without our precious sea salts!  Pick up this Mobile Food Survival Kit and help simplify the travels of your foodie friends. ($25)

under $100

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